Some might say it’s career suicide to make a Beatles cover album. The Flaming Lips have not only attempted this feat, but also some would argue, decided to try and change the most known Beatles record, being that of Sergeant Pepper. Judas’! I hear you cry – but to those people that are offended, I say give it a listen. What harm is it going to do hearing a band appreciating another bands album and putting their own spin on things? They’ve tried it before, releasing their love letter to Pink Floyds classic, Dark Side of the Moon (with reviewers and fans being split on the success), so how do The Flaming Lips fare while taking on the Fab Four?
The Lips have drafted in a plethora of ‘Fwends’ for the record, quite amazingly 26 artistes spread over 13 tracks, accomplished by mixing, fading, and chopping and changing between styles to accommodate everyone in a psychadelia and electronica fuelled party. The record kicks off unsurprisingly with Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and My Morning Jacket lending a hand with the docile tones. This leads into an actual explosion before it psyches out, adds a little grungy guitar and a drone-filled chorus. With a purposely twisted and messy sound, it’s a far cry from the happy original, but does add another ‘out there’ feeling to the track.
She’s Leaving Home boasts a new updated feel with accompanying synths and sounds, giving off the vibe of an electronic merry-go-round, whereas Fixing a Hole is eerie and compelling, with even the most hardcore Beatles fan able to find something they like here.
When people first heard that Miley Cyrus was going to be involved in the project, most of them feared for the worse, however she more than holds her own on the two daunting tracks she features on. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is closer to the original than the other tracks, with the chorus missing where you’d expect it; you wait before it suddenly hits you in the face with a huge wall of sounds and effects, and then drains itself away becoming low and lucid once more. Miley’s vocals both here, and on A Day in the Life are low and unpowered, working well with the tone, especially on the latter with the singer taking on McCartney’s parts. Featuring an excellent take on the transition between the two differing parts and styles, the track unsurprisingly doesn’t feel daunted by the original.
There are some strained points on the album however. When I’m 64 takes away all the innocence of the original, without replacing it with something more interesting, and the scary and menacing sounds given off by Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite feel disjointed and forced. The album can’t hide these tracks because they are known so well the world over, and because of this, everything on the album will be scrutinized and compared to the original, whether they like it or not.
The Flaming Lips have done well to make the record feel like a companion to the original, rather than a rival. But like most cover albums in this vein, your ears keep trying to fish out the hidden hooks you know and love so well, and probably this distracts a little from the psychedelic experience. In areas they’ve done well, creating a different feel to the record, but it’s going to split the crowd again as we knew it would. If you look at it as a piece of music that in itself is likely to be remixed and manipulated by other DJ’s, house party’s and amateur mixers, it’s creating and freeing minds, just like the original did. It’s a brave attempt, which is likely to satisfy some and mystify others.